Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.” I think what he meant was that when you return to the place of your roots years later the changes in that environment mean that it will never really be the same. My journey to Iowa for Camp Euforia is the epitome of this statement. Ten years ago a then local band bought ten kegs of beer, set up a modest stage, and put on an event forever known as the “Euforquestra Fan Appreciation Party.” For some unknown reason they asked me to be the Master of Ceremony. The concert consisted of a handful of Iowa City acts and around 200 music fans. Everything was free including beer and food. A decade later this event endures having evolved into a full blown two-day festival with both nationally touring and homegrown bands on the bill. Many of these bands have performed as Summer Camp throughout the years as well. They asked me to return this time as the official festival video producer. We culled together a small group of young, passionate videographers to help me with my endeavor and along the way we shot over thirty hours of content. Thusly I didn’t have much time to take stills; nonetheless I managed to snap a few shots on the farm.
I arrived Thursday prior to the start of Camp Euforia 2013 and set up my tent in Robert and Ritaville. Rob and Rita were and continue to be the honorary patriarchs of the musical scene in Iowa City. In college they could be found at most shows mingling with the students, music fans, and bar flies alike. They have always camped in the front lawn of the farm and that corner of the fest has since earned that prestigious moniker. The farm itself is a sprawling space of manicured grass and structures owned by festival promoter/founder Jerry Hotz. Together with Eric Quiner (former Euforquestra keyboardist) they have shepherded this event for ten years. Camp Euforia has resided here since the very beginning. Surrounded three hundred and sixty degrees by corn and soybean fields that stretch to the horizon, this is truly an Iowa landscape. The improvements to the amenities and infrastructure from that first year are immediately apparent. Gone are the truck beds and dilapidated barn that served as the various stages in the beginning and in its place is a professional setup rivaling any festival digs in the Midwest. The second stage has been built in the second barn that ten years ago was a dirt-floored hazard. Now complete with it’s own sound and light rig, it is yet another bastion of music in this palatial panorama. They have a quaint spot set up in front of the barn for late night acoustic jamming. Perhaps the biggest improvement this year is the massive bar they constructed opposite of the shed stage and made from salvaged wood panels giving it that classic Iowa look. The vibe at Camp Euforia is one of an extended family reunion. Everyone looks somewhat familiar. For an ex-Iowa City-ian I had numerous reconnections throughout the fest.
Camp Euforia is a unique experience by any standard. Perhaps the most compelling of which besides the locale is the fact that throughout both days there are no overlapping sets of music. Thursday was full of proficiently frenzied preparations that culminated with an extended sound check by Euforquestra for the crew and festival guests. Their crew is one of the best in the business and includes many who have been working this festival for years. Camp Euforia began in earnest on Friday afternoon with The Candymakers. This band is an uplifting breath of fresh soulful air steeped in quality musicianship and irreverent absurdity. They are a throwback to the days when Motown and R&B ruled the radio waves. Decked out in polyester suits the band played an hour of powerful original tunes. At one point lead singer Al Sweet spouted off about riding a unicorn into the sunset. I found out later this is an improvised segment to one of their original tunes. They have been well regarded in blues circles in the Midwest, but it is their vibrant soul that really got my attention. Their song “I Wanna Dip You In Chocolate” was a true highlight. They rounded out their set with a robust rendition of The Beatles, “Oh Darling.”
An unexpected schedule change put Pert Near Sandstone on the main stage next. They have a solid brand of string music, which they have been diligently spreading across the country for several years now. Hailing from Minneapolis this quintet deserves to be recognized for their contribution to Midwest bluegrass. From their humble beginnings as a boozy pick session, Pert Near Sandstone has blossomed into a full-blown bluegrass experience. Their set at Camp Euforia was truly impressive and a great way to get the fest into full swing.
A blast from the past came in the form of Public Property in the barn. PP came up around the same time as Euforquestra in Iowa City. In fact their festival Exodus was a huge influence on the nascent beginnings of Camp Euforia. They played their harmony-backed brand of Roots Rock Reggae led by singer songwriter Dave Bess. Dave continues to play select Public Property dates, but primarily performs as a solo artist. Their set was jam packed with classic PP with Matt Wright and sitting in on keys and Adam Grosso on bass. They were a lot of fun and another wonderful addition to the hometown lineup.
A funksplosion occurred in the form of Dumpstaphunk. This heavily anticipated act is brimming with talent, which includes Ian and Ivan Neville (heirs to the NOLA funk scene), Tony Hall, Nikki Glaspie, and Nick Daniels III. Nikki who is the most recent addition to the group is a monster on the kit and one who definitely commands attention. They eased into the show building their songs organically with lots of collaboration. It was like entering the Church of Funk and getting an hour and half sermon. They are one of if not the best funk band touring today, and they sounded magnificent live. They primarily performed originals, however they closed out their time at Camp Euforia with an incredible version of “One Nation Under A Groove.”
Dead Larry played an hour and fifteen minute set of vibrant rock before Euforquestra took to the stage with their original lineup. This was a reunion born out of necessity. Their current drummer Craig Babineau hyper extended his shoulder so they have had a rotating cast of percussionists filling in for him in his absence. Original drummer Jos Foley suggested getting Matt Grundstad, Ryan Moris-Jeter, and Eric Quiner back in the mix for a set of classic Euforquestra. What followed was the most heartwarming and compelling Euforquestra show in quite some time. For fans that have witnessed the growth of this group, this lineup was the most cohesive of its versions. The current lineup is solid but there is something utterly nostalgic and touching about seeing these seven back together again. Even many including myself. Their two-hour set was a nod to an earlier time with spectacular renditions of “Sea Miner,” “Penny,” and “Naive Melody.” They even referenced some of their early theme shows with “Life During Wartime” and a “Pure Imagination” jam from their Charlie and The Chocolate Factory show. They encored with a powerful “Tramba.”
Family Groove Company started the late night festivities in the barn immediately following Euforquestra’s encore. They shredded late into the evening eventually wrapping up around 2 AM. They invited Chris and Wavy from Cornmeal to sit in, which was their initial appearance as the festival’s first ever artists at large. They played a stellar version of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” as well. I opted to call it a night as Dave Zollo was starting on the small stage and playing until the wee hours. Dave Bess also played a solo acoustic set.
The sun came up early, immediately turning my once shade covered tent into a burning furnace. I took it as an opportunity to get an early start and continued with my duties as the festival video producer. The music of the day started at 10:30 AM with coffee with the Grosso Family Band. Adam Grosso comes from a musical ilk and his family band included his brother and father on guitar and vocals, his mother on the upright bass, and Adam himself on kit. It really did feel like a spiritual family gathering as the Family Band went through a flurry of covers. Playing everything from The Beatles to traditional bluegrass, this Camp Euforia tradition was a welcomed start to the day. The highlight was a spot on version of “Man Of Constant Sorrow.”
Maximilian Eubank played a solo acoustic set on the main stage. Max has been a member of the Euforia family since the beginning. He played a lot with Mike Tallman in their high school days and continues to perform live, mostly in Des Moines where he currently resides. His sound is a punch you in the face acoustic detonation. Utilizing hip-hop lyrical hooks combined with stunning strum-heavy guitar riffs, Max made for a great live experience. His set included an awesome version of Widespread Panic’s “Climb To Safety” as well as an impeccable mash up of his original “Chemical Imbalances” and Martin Sexton’s “Hallelujah.”
The day was chocked full of local acts including Chasing Shade from Iowa City. The members of the band have headed up the Green Team at Camp Euforia for the last few years. After their dedication they were finally asked to play a set at the festival. Last year they diverted over 800 pounds of compost from landfills and this year they continued their hard work. Their music has a bluesy rock feel and they were definitely entertaining. Next on the main stage was The Breaker Brother Band. Comprised of highly regarded musical educators, many of who gave lessons to the members of Euforquestra in the early days. They are primarily a cover band, but the better description would be that they are paying homage to the music that sparked their passion for teaching and performing. Amazing versions of Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” as well as Eric Clapton’s “White Room.”
Recently off their performance at Summer Camp, Zeta June was on the lineup in the barn. They are a young group of musicians, with a heavy sound, and a commanding stage presence. They did a massive cover of “Comfortably Numb” during their 60-minute slot. Des Moines favorites Mr. Baber’s Neighbors and The Solar String Band, which included Mike Tallman on mandolin, represented the first bluegrass band of the day. Tallman joined the band when he was 19 and continues to play with them from time to time. They focus on a traditional styling, with an original twist. Lead by Jeff Blanchard who looks like a grizzled vet from Ice Road Truckers. He was actually very nice and spoke eloquently about the music scene in Iowa and Camp Euphoria, which they have performed at numerous times. They are absolutely some astonishing homegrown Iowa pickers, so check them out if you find yourself in that neck of the woods.
I spent much of the afternoon wrapping up interviews so I missed Fire Sale and The Uniphonics. I’m almost exaggerating with the term “missing” as the music from all of the stages is completely audible from anywhere onsite. The Pimps of Joytime hit the main stage around 5:30 and annihilated the audience with their funky assault. Blending elements of blues, jazz, rock, soul, and electronic music with their funk-focused sound the Pimps Of Joytime are a sight to see. They emerged from the murky waters of Brooklyn and have bounced around the country and festival circuit spreading their stellar approach to live music. Two incredible female vocalists and percussionists flank Brian J their bandleader; their show was a non-stop blast to the senses.
Finally it was time for the heavily anticipated Greensky Bluegrass. These guys tour relentlessly. They basically made a pit stop at Camp Euforia after playing Red Rocks the previous evening and heading to Forecastle Music Festival in Kentucky for a Sunday night show. What band does that? They wadded into the show with “Double Overtures.” Their set felt like going to an extended picking session around the campfire.
The regaled the audience with an almost silly version of John Hartford‘s “Steam Powered Aeroplane” again with Chris and Wavy from Cornmeal.
“It’s good to find brethren every once in a while… like the good, Midwestern, shit-talking, diesel drinking kind of people that Cornmeal are.” –Anders Beck
Greensky also did a bluegrass breakdown on String Cheese Incident’s “Can’t Stop Now,” before they closed with “Atlantic City.” Greenksky always pleases whenever they play live and I’m happy that they went the extra miles to peform at Camp Euforia.
Michiganders Ultraviolet Hippopotamus stormed the barn stage prior to Euforquestra’s final headlining set. On Saturday they performed with the regular lineup minus Craig who was replaced by Tallgrass’s Adam Morford on kit and Robert Espe on sax. Songs like “Wasted” and “Free” invigorated the crowd who was out in full force for this set. With around 800 people in attendance the farm looked its fullest at this point. Maximilian Eubank and Eric Quiner sat in for one of Max’s originals. The highlight of the show was Kim Dawson’s appearance for most of the second half of the set. She adds a vibrancy and beauty to Euforquestra’s wide-ranging sound. It was a solid show that rounded out the festival nicely.
The late night was filled with some rowdiness from That 1 Guy, Jaik Willis, and Tallgrass. The fans stayed up late and partied hard not wanting this great event to end. There was a combined energy of joy in the air as this special festival came to a close. It was like the end of a family reunion where no one really wants to go back to their day-to-day. Camp Euforia is unique to say the least and deserves to be recognized as such. In an era of cookie-cutter festivals Camp Euforia stands out in the crowd.
Stay tuned for the multitude of video I will be sharing on Camp Euforia’s Facebook page. – https://www.facebook.com/campeuforia
With their first show selling out months in advance, The Meter Men decided to add a second night at The Ogden. By many accounts the second night which coincided with Page McConnell’s birthday, was the show to see. We arrived around 8:15 PM grabbed our passes and headed to Sancho’s for some pre-show libations. As we walked we passed Mike from Euforquestra, he let us know they would take the stage sharply at 9PM. After our drink we walked inside the worn walls of The Ogden to get down to Fort Collins’ Finest Euforquestra. Due to a last minute cancellation from the original openers they were asked to fill the bill just a few days prior to the show. They of course obliged and put on a forty-five minute romp of worldly music that was enough to please all of the early arrivers. At first the room was a loosely cobbled together assortment of patrons, but soon the room swelled to its proper size. They began the night with a tight and focused rendition of their now almost classic “Road Funk.” Matt Pitts from The Motet was sitting in for new father Ryan Jeter on sax. He added his own flair to the Euforquestra sound. Highlights from the set included an amazing “Price Is Right” and a jittery “Instant Coffee.” The crowd was complete as they closed the set with Beck’s “Nicotine and Gravy.”
The Meter Men consisting of The Meters sans Art Neville with Page McConnell took the stage shortly after 10 PM. We were immediately hit with their classic “Fire on the Bayou” which saw some searing guitar work from Leo Nocentelli. He would be on point all night, but with a stage filled with such talent by the end I felt like I had whiplash. During “Funkify Your Life” Ziggy Modeliste took the mic and tossed solos to both Porter and Page.
“George Porter taught me all I know about red beans and rice.” – Modiste
Ziggy was in the funk pocket for the entire two hour set and took several opportunities to tell stories and pump up the crowd. Many in the crowd were there for Page, but left as Meters fans. McConnell himself has strayed away from having The Meter Men perform any Phish tunes, but rather wanted the band to relearn some of their deeper cuts. Those early Meters tunes were the stomping grounds of jam for the Vermont quartet. After a massive “Hey Pocky Way,” that became an invigorating sing-along, they finished their set with the much-anticipated “Cissy Strut.” The Meter Men came back for the encore with a massive “Happy Birthday Jam” for Page, which was yet another high point in a great set of music. Reviews from night one seemed mixed at best. Some felt the energy from both band and crowd may have been lacking. I have to say that was not the case for this show. Seeing so much live music I rarely get totally jazzed up after a show. As I headed out into the crisp night air I was all smiles. The Meter Men are a viable project reminiscent of The Big Easy Blowout project that toured the Front Range back in 2006. The difference is that rather than a random assemblage of awesome musicians playing the music or New Orleans, three fourths of The Meter Men made the music of NOLA what it is today. Plus you know… Page. Here’s to hoping they continue to spread the funk for years to come.
Euforquestra has traveled through the murky waters of change and emerged triumphant and unscathed. Musically, the adversity of loosing a founding member could be enough to rock the very foundation on which any band is built. This is not the case with Euforquestra. They continue to tour relentlessly and are currently celebrating their tenth year on the road. The one two punch of Craig Babineau on drums and Scott Mast on percussion have become the new foundation on which Euforquestra is plowing ahead. Both have rock solid licks reminiscent of the Joimoe/Trucks combo when they push past the Southern Rock and into the World Funk. Matt Wright on keys has truly stepped up and has wholeheartedly embraced playing the front man singing with a silky demeanor that really pleases. With Jeter recently becoming a father, his time on stage has been limited, which means there have been a number of local players who have sat in on second sax. This has allowed for a freshness to seep into their overall sound and it leaves room for the unexpected. One unexpected turn was their headlining set at Hodi’s Half Note.
It has been two years since their last rendezvous at this Fort Collins establishment. With headlining gigs at the Aggie and all around Colorado it was a real treat to see them playing a smaller room. The night began with Rudie Clash, a Dubskin side project featuring lead singer Jamal Skinner and keyboardist Jason Wieseler in a strange amalgamation of roots reggae and dub sonic sounds… but we’ll get to that in a minute. I arrived as Jet Edison was hitting the stage with their original “Gold.”
Set I: Gold, Places, Style Of The Times, Wasted, Simon, Wading Through The Rubble, Burn This Disco Out*, Undercover
*w/ Austin Zaletel on Sax
This tight four-piece from Boulder knows how to rock. Lead by keyboardist Phil Johnson who will occasionally pull out a trumpet too. They are a convincing jam powerhouse to say the least. With a new album due out this year, they have plenty to prove. Touring with enthusiasm, it’s impossible to go more than a couple months without catching them live here in Colorado. These four formed a bond in college through late night jam sessions and lots of time on the road. That bond is evident in their transitions and in songs like “Wading Through The Rubble,” which takes on a driving swing feel as they navigate the debris. They tossed it back with a version of Michael Jackson’s “Burn This Disco Out,” with Austin Zaletel sitting in on sax before ending the show with “Undercover.”
The setbreak was filled in with self-proclaimed “ugly” music producers Rudie Clash consisting of Jamal and Jason from Dubskin. They too are on the cusp of releasing a new album and have developed a wholly unique sound. To say that I enjoyed it as much as seeing Dubskin would be an untruth. Jamal is a true showman and will always engage his audience with his bombastic style. That being said this blend of electronic dub and his vocals was a bit jarring. If you are a fan of roots reggae blend and electronica I would recommend you check them out.
As Euforquestra took the stage I found myself wondering why the room was only half full. With finals approaching and many students getting ready to head home for the summer perhaps they just opted out of going. This was the wrong choice. What followed was a two-hour blast through all the things that make me love this band. Opening with “Backbone” Euforquestra started the night like a freight train.
Set 1: Backbone, Cause A Reaction, Milk & Honey, Obatala, Called You, Yogi’s Day Out, The Events of December 11, Solutions*, Madison Square**, Nausea, 64:18, Price Is Right, Instant Coffee, Dr. Standby
Encore: All Light, Hang Ups
*w/ Jamal Skinner on Vocals
**w/ Phil Johnson on Trumpet and Nick on Saxophone
This was a hometown show with the warm feel of a family throw down. Huge versions of “Cause A Reaction” and “Obatala” got the show moving. They pulled out a classic Euforquestra tune “Called You,” which was originally sung by Matt Grundstad and is now crooned by keyboardist Matt Wright. Wright’s vocals can simply be described as clean. He just nails it. “Yogi’s Day Out” was a blast, but “December 11” really sucked in the crowd. They brought out Jamal to sing on “Solutions” before inviting Phil and Nick to fill out the horn section on the instrumental cover of “Madison Square.” They rounded out an epic set with a 1-2-3 punch or originals culminating with an immense set-closing “Dr. Standby.” This show had everything a music fan could want. Hard hitting percussion backing a world approach to music that has been the hallmark of Euforquestra since the beginning. They closed with a two-song encore that included a great version of “Hang Ups.” Through thick and thin Euforquestra perseveres and continues to create amazing music and incredible live performances across the country. The next time they come to your town get out and make sure you bring your dancing shoes.
For the second night in a row I ventured down to the Aggie Theater for some live music. It was a co-bill between local favorites Euforquestra and reggae powerhouse John Brown’s Body. It had been three years since JBB last performed in Fort Collins. I first saw JBB very early in my concert-going career; in fact they were a band that demonstrated to me what was possible on any random Wednesday night in a sweaty, crowed bar. The last time I saw them was around 2006 and seeing them live in Fort Collins it was evident that this band had evolved. As we entered the room Mikey Thunder was gracing the slowly growing crowd with a tasty mix of funk and jazz backed by some palpable beats. At times in the past I’ve found Mr. Thunder’s heavier electronic sets to be off-putting, but he actually sounded really solid. The audience was unenthused and Thunder politely called them on it. He also performed during the setbreaks, which seemed to help the overall flow of the evening.
Euforquestra took the stage and hit the fans with a saucy “Obatala” into “Change Me.”
Set 1: Obatala> Change Me, Road Funk, Soup, Backbone> Wasted, Madison Square, Solutions, 64/18, All The Light I Need, Dr. Standby
Euforquestra has been going through some changes, but watching them live you would never know it. Scott Mast continues to fill in on percussion with Craig Babineau holding it down on kit. These two are really starting to gel, which culminated in a huge back and forth drum jam during “Soup.” They continue to surprise me every time I see them perform together. Speaking of surprises Matt Wright’s vocals have added a whole new dimension to Euforquestra’s sound. However the most powerful moment of the set came when Austin sang “All The Light I Need,” which was a song he wrote to honor a fallen friend. They closed their set with “Dr. Standby.”
John Brown’s Body is another band that has gone through their fair share of hardship and change. With the passing of Scott Palmer in 2006 the band underwent a metamorphosis of sorts. Through their sorrow they emerged as a more focused group blending new styles and pioneering what they call “Future Roots Rock.” They eased into the night with an organ-heavy “Ameliorate.”
Set 1: Ameliorate, Give Yourself Over, Following Into Shadow, The Grass, Plantation, Wellington Dub, Shine Bright, Make Easy, Empty Hands, Ambrosia, What You Gonna Do, 33 RPM
Encore: Peace, The Gold
The horn section consisting of Drew Sayers on saxophone, Scott Flynn on trombone, and Sam Dechenne on trumpet was the icing on the cake all night. They added a level of authenticity and panache to the JBB sound. Elliot Martin, the lead singer was as vibrant as ever and danced around the stage authoritatively. The sound had developed from the roots based songs of yore into something quite different. They were now adding elements of dubstep, hip-hop, electronica, and more to the mix in an attempt to be unique and to craft songs that are truly original. This was not your mother’s reggae. That being said they did have a nice mix of traditional and infused reggae. The highlight of the show for me was a fiery rendition of “Shine Bright.” While John Brown’s Body is not the same band I first saw in 2001 and 2003, they are continuing to blaze trails in the reggae world. They were a wonderful fit for Euforquestra and a great way to start the weekend. Let’s not wait another three years for JBB to return.
Euforquestra returned to Fort Collins for a hometown show at the Aggie with friends Roster McCabe and D. Bess. Both Euforquestra and D. Bess have performed at Summer Camp. In FoCo Euforquestra historically has been a solid draw, but the venue never completely filled in on Friday. D. Bess is the former lead singer of Iowa City reggae outfit Public Property. He currently performs as a solo project utilizing loops and his diverse skills as a multi-instrumentalist. Playing a blend of originals and covers, he slowly built up each song one riff at a time. Having seen D. Bess before, I have to say that he as come a long way with his looping skills. His performance lasted just under an hour before he gave up the mic for Minneapolis’ Roster McCabe.
Roster McCabe is an amalgamation of jam. They blend elements of soul and funk with electronic, dance, and rock. The band has been making regular jaunts out to Colorado for years now, and continues to energize audiences throughout the country.
SET I: The Traveler, MMM, Spark A Light, Paper Crowns, Speed, Regulate, Stargazer, Take A Breath
Their one-hour set blasted by rather quickly leaving some fans wanting more. The silky vocals of Alex Steele washed over the crowd, as their consistent rhythm section made up of Jeff Peterson and Scot Muellenberg stayed tight throughout the set. This allowed for some incredible interplay between the guitarists. They ran the gamut alternating between funky break beats and an all out electro dance party. The powerful and progressive “Paper Crowns” acted as the anchor point of the set, but the funky, retro “Stargazer” was the highlight.
After a short intermission Euforquestra took the stage around 11:30 PM. They opened with a nasty version of Herbie Hancock’s “Hang Up Your Hangups.”
SET I: Hang Up Your Hangups, Let’s Dance> Called You, Hopscotch, Road Funk, Solutions, Price Is Right, Obatala> Change Me, The Events of December 11, Instant Coffee, Cause A Reaction, Dr. Standby> Sexx Laws
ENCORE: Yogi’s Day Out
You can download the show at http://archive.org/details/euf2012-10-06.mk41.flac16. Thanks to Eric Wilkens for posting.
Euforquestra is currently undergoing some changes. With the departure of original percussionist Matt Grundstad and bassist Ben Soltau, there has been a shift in the rhythm section. With Grosso moving back over to bass and newcomer Craig Babineau replacing him on kit, they were joined by yet another fresh face, Scott Mast on percussion. With all of the changes you would think that it would have a distinct effect on their sound, however I was amazed at how well they played together. A vocal rise gave way to David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” which really woke up the crowd and got the night going. The bouncy “Called You” broke down into riff-.y “Hopscotch” which really gave guitarist Mike Tallman a chance to rip it up for the audience. Fan favorite “Road Funk” was a nice addition to the set, with a huge “Solutions” waiting in the wings. The energy-infused “Obatala” into “Change Me” was yet another highlight in this non-stop dance party. This band has the ability to shoot out of the gate like a bunny-crazed greyhound, or step it back into a funky groove that soothes the soul. “December 11” has become another standard from Euforquestra, but the building groove of “Instant Coffee” was a nice change of pace. They ended the set with “Dr. Standby” into Beck’s “Sexx Laws. Euforquestra performed the music of Beck at this year’s Camp Eurforia and have been sneaking his songs into their setlists from time to time ever since. They are doing a Halloween tour featuring Beck’s music at the end of the month as well. They encored the show with Ross Martin’s “Yogi’s Day Out.” This was definitely an eclectic show from Euforquestra with a little bit of everything. They pulled out a few covers and showed that even with some changes in personnel that they will continue to play well and in a manner that fans have come to expect.
Bohemian Nights is the cornerstone of the summer in Fort Collins. It is a celebration of music and highlights some of the incredible homegrown acts in Colorado. The musical performers are a literal smorgasbord of everything this great state has to offer. The nice thing for any music fan is that you can pick and choose your experience to suit your tastes. Being a fan of bluegrass and jam it was easy to cull through the offerings and check out what was appealing to my preferences. In addition to the great local acts performing across six stages, New West Fest brought in several headliners that are some of the most sought after live acts touring today. With over ninety concerts over three days there was a lot to take in for everyone in attendance. Friday night witnessed a three pack of Summer Camp Alumni on the main stage, which was a nice touch.
On Friday I made the choice to stay at the main stage for Dubskin, Euforquestra, and the headliner Michael Franti with Spearhead. Dubskin began the night with their brand of fiery American Reggae. Jamal Skinner has an amazing authenticity that permeates everything he does on stage. With the power duo of Ryan Jalbert and Mike Tallman on guitar this band exudes raw talent. Their approach to the reggae genre leaves nothing to be desired. This 7-piece lineup has everything going for them right now with shows at Summer Camp, Red Rocks, and Wakarusa under their belt the future is looking bright. Their show at New West Fest was simply a blast. They brought a powerful energy and really invigorated the crowd for a night of music.
Next up was Fort Collins transplants Euforquestra. It’s no secret that I love these guys. They bring the heat every time they play. With the recent departure of bassist Ben Soltou the band has shaken up things a bit. Adam Grosso went back into the bass slot while newcomer Craig Babineau has taken his spot behind the kit. Grosso has a more “driving the bus” style as opposed to Soltou’s funky roots, which makes for a distinct change in the band’s sound. That being said, this was the first time I had the chance to see the reformatted lineup and I was definitely impressed. Awesome versions of “Soup” and “Road Funk” really hit the mark in a big way. The crowd definitely began to fill in; in anticipation of Franti. Euforquestra did a great job opening for the headliner. Their version of Beck’s “Nicotine and Gravy” was a high water mark of the show.
Michael Franti and Spearhead took the stage around 8:30 PM to a capacity crowd on Mountain Avenue. This guy is a bucket of liveliness and his show in Fort Collins was no exception. Within the first couple songs he was off the stage and in the crowd. A common occurrence at Spearhead shows to be sure, but it’s always a thrill for those in attendance. Versions of “Everyone Deserves Music” and “Hey Hey Hey” were highlights of the hour and half set. Franti bounced around the stage while Carl Young on bass and Manas Itiene on drums held the rhythm down tightly. While Franti may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I have to say his positivity is simply infectious. It was an excellent end to the first night of New West Fest.
The Bohemian Foundation in association with the Downtown Fort Collins Business Association went above and beyond in the creation of this one of a kind event. They worked tirelessly for months to make it all happen and it is one of the best-run festivals in Colorado. In their eight year the organizers continue to raise the bar every summer. With countless volunteers and some incredible staff they give local musicians an astonishing opportunity to perform in front of massive crowds.
Summer Camp has had so many artist grace their stage over the years, that if you go to any show chancres are the majority of them have played Summer Camp. While the headliners Juno What have yet to play SCamp both Euforquetra and Bernie Worrell have made the trip. My jam-packed weekend of music began with Juno What?!’s headlining show at Cervantes with famed funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell. Much of what Worrell pioneered throughout his career with Parliament and to a lesser extent the Talking Heads is the basis for what bands like Juno What?! are doing today. So it made sense to toss them together in a live setting. Up first was Fort Collins based Euforquestra who continues to impress audiences up and down the Front Rage. Euforquestra continues to be one of my favorite shows to see live, they are a danceable journey into the abyss of world funk. Their sound is so undeniably eclectic and inviting I challenge anyone to see them and not have a good time. Here is their setlist from their hour and half onstage.
SET I: Backbone, Price Is Right, Hopscotch, Ogun, MOMO, Soup, Reggaemylitis, Road Funk, Hang Ups, 2007, Free> Pure> Excuse O> Free, What Cha Want
This set has it all including a sick version of Peter Tosh’s Reggaemylitis with Grundstad on vocals. Mike Tallman has to be one of the most underrated guitarists playing around Denver these days. He quite simply shreds with amazingly smooth finger work. The Free sandwich shows how tight they have become during their time inc Colorado, but the highlight of the show had to be their tribute to the late, great Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. Also known as MCA, his passing is a huge loss to the hiphop community. The Euforquestra boys thought it was appropriate to honor him with a cover of What Cha Want. They invited three MCs to the stage and busted out a compelling close to their set.
Juno What?! is an electro-funk outfit made up of Joey Porter and Steve Watkins on keys, and Dave Watts on drums. The lineup is unusual to say the least consisting of totally rhythmic instrumentation, however, the band is often joined by friends to help fill out their sound. On this particular evening those friends were many, most importantly famed funk innovator Bernie Worrell, as well as members of The Motet and Euforquestra. The night’s theme as an all out dance party continued strong when Juno What?! opened with their now classic Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get with Joey on the talk box. It just set the mood for the entire night as the kids on the floor started their two and a half-hour boogie marathon. They were soon joined by Bernie who fit into their sound like a well-worn glove. Watching Mr. Worrell at the keys is simply spellbinding. There is just something indescribable about seeing such a leading light in the world of funk performing right before your eyes. His weathered hands stroke the keys with amazing comfort. It’s like seeing an old married couple still experiencing love after many years of wedded bliss. Highlights included a rowdy We Want The Funk and a sick “Red Hot Momma.” Seeing Porter play with one of his heroes was the icing on the cake. It was a great night of fun for everyone in attendance. I hope we can all do it again some time.
Juno What?! graciously offers up their recordings for free download here. http://junowhat.net/multi-media/about/
Summer Camp alums Euforquestra hosted a hometown show at The Aggie in Fort Collins to celebrate the release of their debut live album Let Us In. The night began early with an opening set by Barley Davidson. Barley Davidson is an offshoot of local funk institution The Nu Classics. Focusing on a smoother delivery than their counterpart, Barley Davidson features Walter Hannah on guitar and Eric Imbrosciano on kit with a rotating group of horn players to fill in the gaps. I found them to be a silky way to get the night going. Walter had filled in on keys for Euforquestra a few times before Matt took over, so it was nice to see him spreading his wings with this new project. Besides their jazzy jams they also tossed in a couple of instrumental covers including Tears For Fears’ “Everyone Wants To Rule The World” and Squeeze’s “Tempted By The Fruit Of Another.”
Next on the bill was Papagoya, who also call Fort Collins home. They were a blend of funk, jazz, jam, and reggae, meaning that they were the perfect segue from Barley Davidson to Euforquestra. Lead by Dimitri Zaugg on keys and vocals, they were a glossy brand of funky dub that exuded a solid energy and clean musicianship. Having caught them once previously, I knew they were solid performers, but this time around they brought some potency to their playing. Their hard hitting sound reverberated off the wall of the Aggie. By this point the room was filling up nicely, never reaching full capacity but it was definitely a solid crowd. An interesting mixture of college kids and elder hippies dancing like it may be their last chance. Papagoya ended their set and soon after Euforquestra took the stage.
Opening with one of their classic Afro-Cuban jams “Tramba,” Euforquestra came to play, which was obvious from their first note. Here is their setlist from the show.
SETI: Tramba, Reggaemylitis, MOMO, Road Funk, Sea Miner> Pure> Excuse O, Going Over That Waterfall> Tipsy> What A Day, Cause A Reaction> She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, Elegua, Price Is Right, Soup
ENCORE: Late In The Evening> Feel Together> Glide> Feel Together
Euforquestra is a dance-fueled machine; they symbolize a road tested funk outfit of epic proportions. From the time they took the stage the temperature steadily rose until it reached the liquefy point. Ripping into the Peter Tosh classic “Reggaemylitis” was an early highlight, in a show literally chocked full of them. “Road Funk,” which features Matt Wright on vocals shows a different side of this constantly evolving group. Being the newest member of a band can be challenging. However with every change Euforquestra seems to search out and take advantage of the talents of that person in the best way possible. Wright has a higher pitch and a brighter tone to his singing that meshes incredibly well on this song.
“It’s an oldie where I come from.” –Mike Tallman
“Sea Miner” is to Euforquestra as “YEM” is to Phish, it is their instrumental opus that never ceases to wow an audience. It was the beginning of a massive jam that included a stops on “Pure” and “Excuse O.” Tallman’s guitar work was on point all night, he is most definitely one of the most underrated guitar players on The Front Range. They dedicated “Going Over That Waterfall” to Earl Scruggs, and took it to its jazziest point with both Jeter and Zalatel taking turns blowing it up on the horns. Euforquestra transitioned skillfully into the polka-esque “Tipsy,” before busting out the Talking Heads classic “What A Day.” They pulled out a couple of tracks off of Let Us In with “Cause A Reaction” into The Beatles’ “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.” The segue between these tunes is tight, like a well-planned kick to the face. They pulled out “Elegua,” which is a track off their Explorations In Afrobeat album. It’s enjoyable to see them sticking to their roots, and while this concert looked ahead to the new album, it was full of moments that looked back to what brought Euforquestra to this point. They ripped into one of their newer songs “Price Is Right” before finishing their almost two hour set with a massive “Soup” that stretched to the twelve minute mark and left the crowd gasping for air.
The encore was just spectacular with a version of Paul Simon’s “Late In The Evening,“ that was spot on. They finished up by teasing the audience with “Feel Together” tease before going into Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad’s “Glide,” and then back into “Feel Together.” The band is just firing on all cylinders right now. With around a hundred shows a year Euforquestra continues to push out to new audiences and refine their sound. These hometown shows are a great way to see old friends and watch one of my favorite bands bring the heat. As the sweat-soaked patrons walked out into the cool night air we were left with a feeling of sheer joy, knowing that the boys would soon be back and we could do it all over again.
The Motet rang in 2012 with a funk-fueled extravaganza supported by Euforquestra at the Aggie in Fort Collins. Euforquestra is a multi-year alumni of Summer Camp, but surprisingly Colorado jam stalwart The Motet has never made the trek. We headed down to the show around 9 PM. The crowd was already gathering as Euforquestra took the stage soon after our arrival. They opened up with their now classic Cause A Reaction; here is the rest of the setlist.
SET I: Cause A Reaction, Road Funk, Feels Good, Melody Truck, Free >Excuse O, Berrington / Brown Medley, Fool In The Rain> Soup> Fool In The Rain, Life During Wartime, Feel Together
Their set was a high-octane journey through funk, afrobeat, reggae, and jam. There was a palpable buzz around the music as the show began. People were ready to say goodbye to 2011 in a big way with one last hurrah. Lasting around an hour and half the opening set took on a headliner feel. The temperature of the room rose as the people packed in tightly. In fact by the end of the set it was practically impossible to move around comfortably. The highlight of their set was their Fool In The Rain Sandwich with Soup taking the place of the beef. As the setlist indicated Life During Wartime was to be the close, but Euforquestra threw a cherry on the sundae with Feel Together. I was very happy with their set and by the end it was obvious they had made many new fans with this performance.
After a short equipment change The Motet took to the stage with members of Euforquestra around 11:30 PM. Opting for one long set this two-hour plus journey through electro funk and jam was the perfect way to ring in the New Year. They opened the show with Fela Kuti’s Expensive Shit. Here is the rest of the setlist.
SET I: Expensive Shit, Afrodisco Beat> NYE Countdown, I’ve Got That Boogie Fever, Power> Push> Power, Back In Love, Nemesis> Shakara, Shake Your Booty, Only So Much Oil, Roforofo Fight
ENCORE: Drop It In The Slot, Gas Money
The show might as well have been billed as Motequestra because that’s just what we witnessed. With the various members of Euforquestra bouncing on and off the stage The Motet were rarely playing alone. At times the horn section swelled to five members giving a full brass sound to many of the jams throughout the evening. These bands compliment each other so well mainly because they are both immersed in afrobeat and funk but Euforquestra has enough world flair to juxtapose nicely to The Motet’s electro edge. The New Year’s Countdown came quickly and I raced back from the front fearing I wouldn’t find Amy in time. Luckily she was waiting on the stairs for me and we got to take the leap into 2012 together. After the rowdiness of the countdown the show broke down into an all out dance-off. Arms flailed in the air as everyone shuffled for space on the floor. The Nemesis into Shakara was the highlight of the show and again demonstrated how deeply The Motet is interested in delivering the funk in a big way. The driving rhythm of Nemesis melted into the spacey afrobeat of Fela Kuti’s Shakara.
They ended their set as they began with yet another Fela Kuti tune. Roforofo Fight is another track that The Motet have pretty much adopted it as their own track and it was a great way to close the show. They encored with the one two punch of Drop It In The Slot and Gas Money. The pounding afrobeat and funky rhythms that permeated this show are the reason I see both of these bands. When they team up it makes for an incredible experience, and I was happy to welcome 2012 with them. Happy New Year everybody, I’m looking forward to another year of amazing live experiences and another year at Summer Camp.